Let me say firstly that I commenced my cruise on the Carnival Spirit with an open mind on whether I would enjoy the experience or not. I was sceptical about the decor, concerned about the demeanour of the people I would be trapped on board with, worried about the potential for sea-sickness and risks of a ship-wide virus, but excited about the adventure. I needn't have worried Carnival promotes the Spirit as the fun ship and that is what it was the whole way.
Yes we were extremely lucky with a fine run of whether for the whole ten days. The ship felt stable and comfortable the whole way with little of evidence of sea-sickness amongst the vast bulk of passengers. We took precautions of the standard pills to ward off sea-sickness and wore the sea-bands for most of the trip. The vast bulk of our fellow passengers were considerate of others, so I had little to worry about on that front. Serenity is a lovely place to chill out and escape the noisier passengers, and there are plenty of other quiet spots on board to spend some chill time. There is also a vast array of activities to entertain you when you need that and the entertainment crew led by Stu are fantastic at their job. The shows, acts, musicians and gaming co-ordinators are highly professional and entertaining day after day.
Now the kids on board issues and yes we did go in school holiday time. Mostly it was nice to have their energy and enthusiasm on board saves us old crusties from ourselves. Mostly the young ones were well behaved, but towards the end of the journey a significant proportion seemed to lose the plot with hordes of teenagers and younger charging around the public areas bumping into people. No-one disciplined them neither parents nor staff, and allowed them to take over corridors and public areas. Hey, glad you kids are enjoying yourselves but give some thought to others I guess that's the aussie culture with parents unwilling to discipline their precious children.
The food and restaurants exceeded my expectations in the main and offered such a variety, quality, quantity and freshness of produce to satisfy any palate. Yes some of the offerings in La Playa are variable but you could usually find something tasty and wholesome. My only criticism strangely was of the restaurant Nouveau. We felt promotion of this oversold but under-delivered. Why? Yes it was cheap relative to a shore-based restaurant in a city. But the nightly food, service and entertainment in the Empire dining area was that good that we needed to see a differential when paying an extra $35/head, especially with wine charges at $50+/bottle upwards. We did not see that differential the atmosphere in Nouveau was cold and clinical, the food variable, and the wine expensive. The meat was juicy, flavourful and tender but the signature dishes of lobster were tough and lacking in flavour. Two of our party were not well after attending Nouveau so all-in-all I do not recommend it.
Alcohol on-board is expensive in the main but hey they have to make a buck somewhere. And there are a lot of sales pitches for products and services - so just avoid those as you choose.
The shore excursions were also over-priced and disappointing. A charge for a couple of hours around Noumea at $80/head was expensive and we found better tours at better prices on offer later from the cruise terminal. My suggestion check what is on offer at the cruise terminal. Mare was appalling!. Undeveloped sounds nice except if you are with a large group of cruisers pouring off a ship to no welcome, no cultural experiences, no singing, no dancing, a long line of disgruntled people queuing for transport to the one shore excursion on offer, Yedjele beach. When we finally arrived with hundreds of fellow cruisers the wind-swept beach was overcrowded with few facilities on offer. The whole Mare experience felt sad and that local community needs to do something quickly to offer a better experience for tourists. Perhaps tours to some other attractions like the natural aquarium, or Pede beach, some cultural experiences and better craft and food offerings. I heard many grumblings but little praise for our stop in Mare. The other stops at Mystery Island (fantastic) and Port Vila were well worth it the Ni-van people are naturally friendly and seem to have a way of imparting fun and joy for their visitors. We avoided the ship offered shore excursions at Vila and took ourselves away from most of our fellow cruisers to snorkel at Hideaway a beautiful day and great snorkelling don't tell anyone else want to keep that a quiet secret ïSh One downside to avoid if you can of Vila is the taxi-drivers at the cruise terminal. No Stu, the taxi fee is not $25 for the 5-10 minutes to the town centre it's $25 per head! So the four of us were charged $A150 return to Hideway and back to the ship a huge rip-off. A fellow passenger said she negotiated $A5/head to town with a water taxi nearby so try that or walk the half hour to town. The flag-down red buses in Vila charge $2-5, so let's work collectively to stop the rip-offs by the Vila taxi-drivers who are catching out the aussie tourists off the cruise ships. Some of the shore excursions looked to be good value, such as the Ekasup tours and at least that way you don't pay the terrible taxi fees.
All-in-all I loved the cruise experience from whoa to go and will happily book again in the future with Carnival line it really was the fun ship